Objectives: a) To compare the clinical effect of rectal misoprostol with intramuscular syntometrine in reducing blood loss in the third stage of labour, b) to determine the severity and incidence of side effects of both drugs and c) to measure blood loss, patient tolerance and acceptance of rectal misoprostol.
Methods: One hundred and forty parturients were randomly allocated to receive intramuscular syntometrine (syntocinon 10 IU + ergometrine 0.5 mg) or rectal misoprostol 400 mg within five minutes of the delivery of the anterior shoulder. Blood loss was measured by the use of a plastic collection drape. Additional oxytocic therapy was instituted for uterine atony or if blood loss was in excess of one litre.
Results: There was no significant difference in patient demographics of each treatment group (Table 1). There was no difference in mean duration of the third stage of labour (8.4 ± 14 min vs
7.8 ± 6.6 min). The mean blood loss from those parturients receiving misoprostol (180.1 ± 120 mls)
was not significantly different (p = 0.5) from those receiving syntometrine (197 ± 176.97 mls) for the active management of the third stage of labour. Treatment with syntometrine was associated with a significant elevation of post-partum systolic blood pressure compared with misoprostol treatment (mean increase 0.57 ± 18.79 mmHg vs -1.43 ± 14.17 mmHg, (mean ± SD), p < 0.04). Rectal misoprostol was well tolerated in 88.5% of participants, 11.4% reported that insertion was uncomfortable, of which 2.8% reported that they would have preferred parenteral drug administration.
Conclusion: The clinical effect of rectal misoprostol and intramuscular syntometrine were not different at the doses used in the active management of the third stage of labour in this study. Rectal misoprostol was well tolerated by the patients and had a low side effect profile. Blood loss assessment using the blood collection drape is of invaluable benefit in resource-poor settings.